Model A1286. Released February 2011 / 2.0, 2.2, or 2.3 GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7 Processor

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Gray screen of death.. need help diagnosing

Hello all, thank you for taking the time to read this.

I have had the grey screen of death for quite some time now. (couple of months)

- The hard drive is fine in target disk mode (ran first aid and disk repair) and I've been able to access data from there.

- I've run advanced apple hardware diagnostics and the only problem that it picked up was a known problem with the airport (wifi only works for a bit when I reconnect the cables and then it no longer works (Wifi not connected error)).

- I can't boot past the gray screen into anything, including safe mode, recovery mode.

- The recovery DVD worked once in the first few weeks of the gray screen but now also only loads to the grey screen. (note: I can hear the optical drive running)

- I've tried to reset the PRAM and SMC multiple times.

- Sometimes the macbook loads up and is stuck on the gray screen and other times it reaches the gray screen and restarts itself.

- I've connected the macbook pro to an external display and saw a similar screen (gray with vertical lines) on the external display.

- I've used the "/sbin/fsck –fy" command in single user mode and seen "the volume appears to be ok".. Anything else I could try?

- I've also booted up in verbose mode. I will attach images of the Verbose mode information at a later stage.

-I opened up the computer and noticed a bit of discoloration in the right hand corner small part of the logic board (see image). There was dust present on other parts of the logic board. Could this be preventing proper logicboard operation.

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My questions are therefore:

- Is there anything I could do in single user mode to fix this issue?

- Is there anything else I could try?

- What does verbose mode suggest is the problem? (once images have been added, bare with..)

- If I do need to replace the logic board, is there a point? (I've updated the RAM and it ran more smoothly and I was also going to update to a SSD as well, but given how delicate logic boards seem to be, in buying a logic board, is it worth buying the 2012 version instead? (I was reading on a forum here that you can install a mid 2012 logic board on the early 2011 macbook pro...)

Thank you.

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Firstly, i just want to note that its impossible to be 100% certain of any diagnosis without completing a full hardware test and swapping parts in.

But with this 15" 2011 model having just a notorious graphics fault, i can say that it is nearly certainly a GPU fault with the main logic board.

The 'liquid' or corrosion you see by the Magsafe board and LVDS cable looks more like liquid flux residue, which is used when building the boards. Its typical for the machines that are dropping the components into place to not fully clean this up, but it doesn't cause a problem. But it doesn't look like liquid to me.

The problem with this range was so bad, that Apple actually accepted responsibility for it and did an extended replacement programme for the logic boards that lasted 4 years after the date of purchase.

Unfortunately, Apple never actually solved the problem, so the boards they were fitting as replacements and the same likelihood of reoccurring with the same fault.

The issue is when they swapped to lead free solder for their GPUs, with the aim of being more environmentally friendly. This solder dries out and cracks, causing the GPU to lose contact with the logic board.

Many tried the 'reflow' process of the board, which is only a temporary fix. (this involves heating the board up to 'reflow' the solder under the chip)

The only sure fix is to 'reball' the GPU, which is a complicated process involving removing the current GPU, removing all the solder and replacing it with leaded solder.

We've had a number of these boards repaired by a specialist, and have not had any reoccurrence of the fault. But its not a cheap component level repair to have done.

In essence, if you have the common GPU fault with your logic, you can replace the logic, but it may get the same fault after some time. Or you can sell that machine and upgrade to a later model.

Just to confirm your other question, the Mid 2012 logic board will Not work in the 2011 machine. The are some component similarities, but the display is completely different (the LVDS cable is not interchangeable for starters), so you'll end up sending loads more money buying not only the later logic, but all the other parts that also need replacing to upgrade it for compatibility.

The Mid 2012 model doesn't suffer from the same fault, so i'd class it as the most stable MacBook pro available, and it is the last model before it went retina, so is the most recent and upgradable machine you can buy currently.

Just to confirm my sources, we recycle thousands of Macs a year, and of 188 15" 2011 machines we've recycled in the last few years, i'd say that we've had about a 70-80% failure rate with the GPU fault that apple did an extended exchange programme on. We intentionally dont refurbish this range because of how common the fault is, and we dont sell currently fully working logic boards from this range because of the risk of occurrence and detrimental effect to our warranty service we offer. We pride ourselves on our customer service at TheBookYard, so prefer honesty about the common problems over a quick sale.

I hope this helps.

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@thebookyard Apple did not accept responsibility until they got hit with a class action law suit. Apple rarely admits any fault since the advent of Tim Cook. http://appleinsider.com/articles/15/01/1...

Integrity at Apple has been stored away in an old Apple box and shelved, it is now considered "legacy".

Getting the chip replaced rather than reflowed is a repair path: http://www.ebay.com/itm/EXCHANGE-MACBOOK...

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Yes, i completely agree. As we're not associated with Apple, we deal with many of the same issues as i'm sure you do... Apple are frustrating at the best of times... But i do love some of their kit, its just a shame the direction they're taking thinks in the last 5 years...

Yes, we had actually found a good source for the GPUs on their own with the replacement solder balls already applied, which makes the replacement process much quicker. But having a reflow station does make life a whole lot easier...

For an end consumer, i'd completely agree with you @mayer, an exchange or swap with an already repaired board is the best solution for sure.

It also saves the customer the delay time of a repair, and the risk of it not going smoothly, as not every reball is a sure fix.

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@thebookyard Jon, are you selling those replacement GPUs? If not please share your source ;-)

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The replacement GPUs with solder balls pre-attached were sourced through eBay. Just contact them first to ensure the chip type is correct for your model.

Its not something that we sell currently. we were just experimenting at the time. It just takes more time to complete a repair than we can justify for a machine that is 6 years old unfortunately.

I dont have the exact seller details, but a quick search on ebay will come up with options, as they are not mac specific chip sets.

Its not an upgraded GPU version though, its just a later and more stable version of the original chip set found on this model. Just so users dont think they will be getting a souped up 2011 machine with 2016 specs!

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@thebookyard Hi there, My computer did the same exact thing as Gualtiero's Mac. I had Apple and 2 other companies test it. All said the same thing. It was the graphics card. 1 suggested a repass, but then felt it would be a waste of my money to do because he knew it would not last long.

I'm basically trying to find out how much my computer can sell for in this condition. I believe our computers are similar... MacBook Pro 15" Unibody Early 2011

Model A1286. i7, 8gig ram, 1 tb hd.

I also have a 27 inch cinema monitor that I bought with it I am trying to sale. Can you help me price the items. Thanks in advance.

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Gualtiero Uslenghi will be eternally grateful.
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